Oldendorff Carriers. An insight into bulk transshipment
Johannes van Dijk
Director of Communications
Headquartered in Lübeck, Germany since the company’s founding in 1921, Oldendorff is undoubtedly one of the world’s biggest players when it comes to the matter of bulk transportation. The numbers speak for themselves: the company transports around 320 million tonnes of bulk products every year, utilising a fleet of just over 700 bulk carriers. “Our fleet ranges from handysize to capesize vessels; from 35,000 DWT to a maximum of 210,000 DWT,” says Scott Jones, the company’s Director of Communications.
In addition to bulk transport from port to port, Oldendorff is also active in the specialist transshipment market. “Generally speaking, this involves transshipping cargo from ship to ship; usually required due to draught restrictions in a port,” Scott explains. “We operate eight of these projects in Guyana, Trinidad, Turkey, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.
“In some cases we are lightering large vessels to smaller vessels that then take the cargo into a draught restricted port to unload.” The Turkish project that supplies a coal-fired power plant is a good example of this. “The capesize supply ships have an 18-metre draught, but there’s only a 5-metre draught at the power plant. So that’s where we come in, our transshipment operations keep the plant supplied with coal.
“In other cases we are doing the opposite,” he says. “In Trinidad, for example, we have medium-sized ships arriving from Brazil and Venezuela loaded with iron ore and bauxite. We transship the cargo from four or five of these vessels to one very large capesize vessel that then sails to the final destination.”
“It’s all about combining cargoes – sending one big ship across the ocean is more efficient than sending four or five smaller ones. This is part of our transportation network that has environmental benefits as well as offering our clients cost advantages.”
These transshipment operations occur offshore with supportive infrastructure such as floating cranes or transshipment platforms. “This is where our Damen vessels come into action,” continues Captain Johannes van Dijk, referring to the fifteen Damen-built Stan Tugs and Fast Crew Suppliers in the Oldendorff fleet. “They are all used in different projects and for different reasons.
“Take our Stan Tugs 2208 in Guyana; 80 % of the time, they are used for pushing barges up and down the river. The rest of the time they are used for ship handling, and occasionally salvage duties.”
“In Trinidad we have a Stan Tug 2208 and a second hand Stan Tug 3509 that are used mainly for ship handling, but also supply duties. The 3509 – basically an extended 2909 – has the capacity to supply large amounts of fuel and water.”
A sign of the times
Oldendorff’s Fast Crew Suppliers are mobilised primarily for crew transfer duties. “We have five in total,” Johannes adds. “Two 1605, two 1405 and one 1204. I like them; they are wonderful boats, well laid out. However, these are highly sophisticated boats, which puts a burden on us to find crews that can operate such technical equipment. In some of the areas where we work with local crews, we have to bring more experienced international crews. This is a sign of the times that is happening everywhere, but sometimes it would be better to keep things as simple as possible.”
With Damen vessels playing such a vital part in Oldendorff’s transshipment operations, Scott and Johannes are certainly in a good position to give some valuable feedback. “Reliability and quality are very important to us. Some of these projects have been running for ten to fifteen years, and our Damen equipment has been working very well,” says Scott. “And while they are standard vessels that can be delivered quickly – our two 14-metre crew suppliers were ready in six weeks, for example – we still found what we wanted with our second hand Stan Tug 3509, which was not available as a stock vessel.”
“What’s more,” concludes Johannes.
Damen is the only shipbuilder that we use where we don’t send a supervisor during the build process.